The Philadelphia region has thousands of acres of parks, preserves and woodlands, many of which offer spectacular naturalistic panoramas. Of course, you can take your chances to see what might be in bloom in Fairmount Park, Valley Forge Park and Chanticleer are all worthy places to visit. And the expansive Longwood Gardens includes two sections – Pierce’s Woods and The Meadow – where a variety of wildflowers may be seen. But if you are looking for where to go for some of the best places to enjoy natural wildflowers in our area, here’s what you need to know.
Brandywine River Museum
1 Hoffman’s Mill Rd and Route 1 (Baltimore Pike), Chadds Ford, PA 19317
Admission: Members & Children under age 6, Free; Children 6 – 12 & students with ID, $6; Seniors, $8 and Adults, $12.
While the Brandywine River Museum is best-known for the art gallery featuring the work of the Wyeth family artists, the museum also offers beautiful wildflower demonstration gardens. The work for the gardens was begun in 1974 and dedicated in 1979 by Lady Bird Johnson and includes typical woodland areas, wildflower areas as well as wetland areas.
While the Wyeth art is interesting, on my last visit here, I found I preferred walking the grounds of the museum, with various plants in bloom from early spring through autumn. The museum is also located fairly close to several wineries, most notably Chaddsford Winery (3 miles) and Penns Woods Winery (5.5 miles); pairing the museum visit with either of the wineries, especially if they are having a special event, can easily fill a weekend day.
Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve
1635 River Rd, New Hope, PA 18938
Admission: Members & Children under age 4, Free; Children 4 – 14, $2; Students with ID & Seniors, $3; Adults, $5.
Hands-down, this is one of the best places to see wildflowers in our area. Nearly 800 varieties of plants grace the 134-acre preserve, with local wildflowers and plants blooming from February through October. Even if you have previously visited the preserve, in September 2012 they added in a spectacular pond with a springhouse and patio; it is well worth the price of admission to visit Bowman’s Hill again. During nice weather, it is surprisingly easy to find oneself spending nearly an entire day here.
Bowman’s Hill is open year-round, only closed between Christmas and New Years and on Thanksgiving Day. Hours are from 8:30 am to sunset. However, the gift shop is closed on Mondays, only open Tuesday through Sunday from 9 am to 5 pm. Check their website for special events and programs. Bowman’s Hill is about 40 miles outside of Philadelphia, in New Hope.
Jenkins Arboretum & Gardens
631 Berwyn Baptist Rd., Devon, PA 19333
Admission: Free (donations accepted)
Jenkins Arboretum was a favorite destination for my adoptive mother as well as many of the residents in the assisted living facility where she resided, because the grounds are both beautiful and easily accessible. Tucked away in a densely populated residential area, visitors are often amazed to find this little gem hidden away in the Philadelphia suburbs.
There are 1.2 miles of paved pathways, conducive to those with mobility impairments as well as parent’s pushing strollers. However, you don’t have to be impaired or pushing a stroller in order to enjoy what Jenkins has to offer. Many of the paths are lined with ferns and wildflowers and there are two large wildflower beds as well. The larger, wider bed is on the path just opposite the Browning House, while the narrower, longer bed lies between the Pond Walk and the Woodland Walk pathways. While the grounds are open every day from 8 am to sunset, the education center is open from 9 am to 4 pm. While an hour or two is often sufficient for a visit, the various benches strategically placed encourage visitors to sit, read, watch wildlife and generally unwind.
Sharon Annette McCuddy has lived in the Philadelphia region since 1975. She enjoys visiting parks and public gardens, often seeking inspiration for her own gardens at home.